Our lives have an incredible way of testing our threshold, stretching our capacity, and ultimately, offering a balance. In the past couple of years, I’ve watched each of my grandparents age at warp speed. At the same time, I’ve watched many of my friends grow, marry and succeed.
At the beginning of June, within a week of each other, I had my grandfather fall and break his hip and one of my best friends get married. I was running from the hospital, holding my mom and sister as we feared the worst, to the rehearsal dinner visiting with lifelong friends, laughing, and sharing stories. How do we do this? How do we compartmentalize emotions from one incident to the next? Trying to juggle my time over the last couple of months has been very difficult. It feels insensitive that the priority for “grandparent visits” goes to whoever is in the hospital, or is projected to have the shortest time. And when that person gains strength or begins to recover, do they fall to the bottom of the rotation? When both sets of grandparents live in opposite directions, I have felt torn on so many occasions only wishing there wasn’t so much construction going on, or I didn’t work so much. Ultimately, wishing there was more time.
We want to keep our loved ones forever. When that thought is threatened, we become nostalgic and, well, panicky. I’ve been spoiled. I have all of my grandparents still around physically and (for the most part) mentally. I know this, because I have a lot of people who are close to me who haven’t had the same opportunity. After the past couple of scares, I took that opportunity to really sit and visit. And not like, “Hey, I’m here. I’m going to eat all of your baked goods and listen to you ramble about walking to school uphill both ways,” but REALLY listening. Hearing where their morals, values, and life lessons came from. Hearing their views on marriage, love, finances, and religion. I admire both sets of my grandparents for embracing the changing of times. None of us grandkids got any flack for moving in with our partners before marriage, nor did I get any flack for travelling by myself. I’m sure they had a few choice words to have with me, but instead it was always, “We love you, be happy, stay smart. Be. Careful.” This is a big change from their time.
While my grandpa was in the hospital, Marc and I got the chance to overhear a conversation he had with a fellow patient. He was talking about the his marriage with my grandma, and while the other guy was making some joke about how nice it was for some time away from his wife after being married so long, even if it was in a hospital, my grandpa just smiled and spoke about the love and respect he still has for my grandmother after nearly 60 years. Their marriage was far from perfect. I know this. But after so many years and so many highs and lows to feel this way? Now that’s loyalty. I have also had the opportunity to spend some time with the smartest man I’ve ever met, my Big Jim (He’s not your average “Grandpa”). To the average person, he appears to be a crusty and hilarious old man. Spend some time with him, and I guarantee you will learn more about business in that time than you could from an MBA. There are still people who work for the family business who were around when Big Jim was President. Those stories will be for another day. These are the moments. I think these are the lessons I am supposed to take away. It is an anomaly to be 25 and have all of your grandparents around. I have been fortunate enough to get to know them as people. I know that when my grandparents pass on, I will wish I got to spend more time with them. Not out of obligation but for selfish reasons. Because they all led different lives and I continue to find out more about myself each time we speak. On the other side? We have to find the balance. Working, relationships, time for you, time for future planning, time for current plans. So how do we do it? How do we find that inner peace when we are in constant flux individually and together? I don’t have the answer, but I’m feeling like these moments of “chaos” will guide and strengthen those skills no matter where life takes us.